RECENTLY there has been some panic over reports that some fully vaccinated people have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that may cause Covid-19, causing much consternation among not only vaccine sceptics but also among many who have already been vaccinated.
Social media has, as usual, blown this phenomenon out of proportion discouraging those unvaccinated people who were considering getting the jab from doing so. But that fully vaccinated people can get infected has always been part of medical science. Such infections are called breakthrough infections and have not only affected people vaccinated against Covid-19.
Many breakthrough infections have been seen in such diseases as mumps, chicken pox and influenza. These infections happen when a vaccine fails to provide adequate protection, but the infections often result only in milder symptoms and are of a shorter duration than illnesses resulting from natural infections. A breakthrough infection, according to experts is “a case of illness in which a vaccinated individual becomes sick from the same illness that the vaccine is meant to prevent. Simply, they occur when vaccines fail to provide immunity against the pathogen they are designed to target.”
Vaccines have never been said to prevent diseases 100%. It has always been said, and this point has not sunk in the heads of some people, that vaccination is meant to prevent serious illness that may result in hospitalisation or even death. So, when a person is vaccinated it never means he or she can no longer be infected. In fact, some vaccinated people have been known to carry the virus and pass it on to other people while they themselves are showing no signs and symptoms at all.
Breakthrough infections may be a result of many things. Poor storage and improper handling of vaccines may be some of them. It should also be known that vaccination doesn’t give immediate protection. Vaccines may take at least two weeks to effectively block infection, so some people may contract the virus in the window period between vaccination and the time when immunity begins to be built. Another reason why breakthrough infections may occur is the nature of viruses themselves which mutate notoriously fast; SARS-CoV-2 has proven to be one such virus that changes rapidly. For a virus that was only identified a year-and-half ago to have so many variants already is testimony to the difficulty that will accompany its containment.
Breakthrough infections are also common among people who are immunocompromised. These are people who might already have been suffering from chronic illnesses that have weakened their immune systems. Such illnesses may include HIV and Aids and some cancers that demand that sufferers take drugs that may suppress immunity.
Old age may also result in breakthrough infections. There is therefore no need to panic when breakthrough infections are identified and announced. The only way Covid-19 can be controlled is still through vaccination.